by Mazarkis Williams

Night Shade Books, $24.99, 346 pages

A plague is running rampant in the Cerani Empire. It infects everyone and the emperor himself has recently been infected and his future uncertain. His brother, Sarmin, hidden away as a child but kept alive as a spare, finds himself suddenly a part of a political game again and set to marry a woman from across the desert who may hold the key to the survival of the kingdom and its people.

The Emperor’s Knife is a new novel and the first of the planned trilogy by author Mazarkis Williams and is a layered and complex story of political games, betrayal and plays for power. The characters are written well and, particularly the court players, are sneaky, making plans and agreements behind the scenes – they are smart, subtle and deadly. The storyline is well laid out, has a nice pace and proceeds logically as events unfold. Fans of fantasy will enjoy this novel.

Barbara Cothern